Stranded whale refloated in Bay of Plenty

Volunteers and Department of Conservation staff help tend to a pygmy sperm whale which was stranded on Ohope Beach this morning.
File photo
Volunteers and Department of Conservation staff help tend to a pygmy sperm whale which was stranded on Ohope Beach this morning. File photo

A pygmy sperm whale has been refloated after stranding on Ohope Beach in the Bay of Plenty.

Residents discovered the three metre whale at low tide on the beach at about 6:30am.

Project Jonah chief executive Kimberley Muncaster said the trained medical officers decided the whale was well enough to refloat after midday.

It swam away when the team of about 50 volunteers and DOC staff at the scene were able to get it into the water, she said.

"It's really good news - through there is always the chance it will strand again.
Ms Muncaster said more volunteers were needed to work during what is expected to be a busy "stranding season" in the coming months.

"This is stranding season. New Zealand has the highest stranding rate in the world. It's something all New Zealanders should learn how to do."

Earlier, the Department of Conservation told Radio New Zealand the whale may have ingested oil leaked from the stricken cargo ship Rena before it swam ashore.

But Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman Sophie Hazelhurst said there was no indication the whale is affected by oil.

Justine Knowles, from the Ohope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park said the whale is stranded near Phillips Street.

While she hasn't seen the whale herself, people staying at the campground have gone down to see it, she said.

One camper told her the whale is still partially in the water, and with high tide later today, it is hoped the whale can be refloated.

- NZ Herald Online staff

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